What's at stake over the final week of the MLB season?
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Major League Baseball's protracted and unprecedented 2020 regular season is hurtling toward its conclusion, but plenty of scenarios are still at play.

The final seven days of the campaign are shaping up to be jam-packed - from award races to playoff spots, and maybe the odd milestone.

Here's what you need to look out for in the regular season's final week.

Bringing home the hardware

Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber is a virtual lock to win the AL Cy Young this season, but the rest of the awards remain fairly wide open.


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After hitting .194 with two home runs over the first 17 games in September, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. might not finish within the top three unless he significantly rebounds.

Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has surged into the front-runner slot with a .346 batting average, 1.098 OPS, 11 home runs, and more walks than strikeouts. But he's not alone: Since Aug. 18, Tatis' teammate Manny Machado has reminded everyone why the Padres broke the bank to sign him, hitting .398/.424/.761 with 11 home runs in 125 plate appearances.

Due to that streak, Machado's moved into a tie for the NL home run lead with the other top MVP candidate, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts joined the powerhouse club via offseason trade and was immediately the best player on the roster, hitting .303/.376/.597 alongside his top-shelf power.


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While the NL race may be Freeman's to lose, the Junior Circuit will almost be too close to call. New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit leads baseball with 21 home runs and teammate DJ LeMahieu has been a nearly impossible out.

But what about the Los Angeles Angels duo of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon? Sure, the Angels are about to miss the playoffs (again), but Trout (.292/.395/.611, 16 home runs) and Rendon (.277/.416/.503) haven't been the root cause of the team's struggles.

Similarly, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are a pair of viable options for the Chicago White Sox. Anderson has defied naysayers en route to a .360 batting average while the veteran Abreu is having his best career year at 33.

And it's still possible that Bieber's dominance on the mound could make him the first pitcher to win MVP since Clayton Kershaw in 2014.

NL Cy Young

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As up in the air as the AL MVP race may be, the NL Cy Young conversation will keep raging into the autumn because of the sheer volume of worthy candidates.

There are at least 10 pitchers in the running with a week to play. New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, barring an injury recurrence, is slated to make two starts (vs. Tampa, at Washington). Performing well in those matchups could give him the edge over resurgent Chicago Cubs veteran Yu Darvish or Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes and his NL-leading 1.77 ERA.

Meanwhile, Dinelson Lamet leads the NL in strikeouts - with Trevor Bauer sitting one behind - Clayton Kershaw tops in WHIP, Max Fried has not allowed a single home run in 55 innings, and Kyle Hendricks paces the league with an 8.71 K/BB. There's no shortage of notable contenders in the Senior Circuit, and with each prospect expecting to make at least one more start, the final week should determine who walks away with the hardware.

AL batting title

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LeMahieu (.361) and Anderson (.360) are neck-and-neck for the league's best batting average in addition to their pursuit of the AL MVP. LeMahieu and the Yankees square off against the Blue Jays and Marlins in the final week while Anderson's White Sox take on the Indians and Cubs. Anderson left Sunday's game against Cincinnati early due to hamstring cramps, and the club listed him as day-to-day. If LeMahieu can pull it out, he'll become the first player ever to win a batting title in both leagues.

Wild cards

The expanded postseason has opened up the race to many more teams, and neither league has a finalized playoff picture yet.


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Position Team Record
7 Indians 29-24
8 Blue Jays 27-26
-- Mariners 23-30
-- Angels 23-31
-- Orioles 23-31
-- Tigers 22-30

Cleveland and Toronto appear to have the AL Wild Card spots mostly secure, but the Blue Jays have been slumping - Sunday's win snapped a six-game losing streak - and still play the Yankees four more times. Even if they keep sliding, the onus shifts to the Mariners (vs. Astros, at A's), Angels (at Padres, at Dodgers), or Orioles (at Boston, at Toronto) to go on a scorching run.


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Position Team Record
7 Phillies 27-26
8 Reds 27-27
-- Brewers 26-26
-- Giants 26-26

The NL race is a bit tighter, and it's worth noting that the St. Louis Cardinals could drop from second place in the Central if things continue to go south. Should that happen, either the Reds or Brewers would replace the Cardinals in the Central and No. 6 seed, with the other potentially taking a wild card spot from St. Louis as well.

With Bryce Harper becoming the latest Phillie to suffer an injury during Sunday's loss, Philadelphia's hold on the No. 7 seed could be tenuous, and losing Harper for any amount of time will hurt the team's chances. The longest odds belong to the Mets, but they do get two starts from deGrom, so it's not impossible.

NL East title

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The Miami Marlins are three games behind the Atlanta Braves with a week to play, and the clubs square off four more times. The Marlins have overcome a widespread COVID-19 outbreak, forcing some creative roster tweaking. Miami has managed to win most of their games despite starting the season with extremely low expectations.

It may be a big ask, but the Marlins have split the season series so far at three games apiece, showing they can hold their own. But even if they somehow sweep the Braves, it may not be enough - Miami travels to the Bronx for a three-game set against the suddenly unstoppable Yankees to wrap up the schedule.

However, the Marlins still have a chance.

AL division races

All three AL divisions remain unsettled, and some long droughts could end by next weekend.

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The Tampa Bay Rays are not only owners of the Junior Circuit's best record but are also poised to win their first AL East title in a decade. In Oakland, the A's are marching towards owning the AL West for the first time since 2013, and they can be the first AL team to clinch a division as early as Monday. If the White Sox can hold off the Minnesota Twins, they'll claim AL Central dominance for the first time since 2008.

The closest AL race is in the Central, where the White Sox - who are trying for their first division crown since 2008 - hold a two-game lead over Minnesota. The South Siders top the division, but face a tough schedule in the final week of traveling to Cleveland for four games before returning home to host the crosstown-rival Cubs.

The Twins, meanwhile, get six games at Target Field - two against the fading Tigers, and three versus Cincinnati, who may also have something to play for on the final weekend. Home-field advantage for the second-place Central team in a first-round series against the Yankees - which the Twins hold right now - is also potentially on the line. There's a decent chance this one goes down to the wire.

Mountcastle pushing for top rookie

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Had Ryan Mountcastle debuted earlier - and maintained a similar offensive pace - he'd already have the AL Rookie of the Year trophy on his mantle. Nevertheless, a big week could position him to leapfrog Seattle Mariners outfielder Kyle Lewis or budding White Sox phenom Luis Robert.

Kyle Lewis 52 11 .280/.376/.473 1.8
Luis Robert 50 11 .232/.299/.459 1.6
Ryan Mountcastle 29 5 .330/.389/.530 0.9

The Orioles slugger has raked since the day he got the call. He's only gone hitless in consecutive games twice and has already notched 11 multi-hit games. Lewis is still in the driver's seat, but there's room for Mountcastle to take advantage of down the stretch.

What's at stake over the final week of the MLB season?
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